News

New €10 million project to reward farmers for environmental enhancement in priority river catchments

Pearl Mussels Launch


Wetland Surveys Ireland, a Kerry based environmental consultancy together with a team of expert advisors, have been appointed to administer the 'Pearl Mussel Project', a new €10 million locally led scheme for farmers. The overall aim of the project is to reward farmers for improving the local environment with a view to ensuring the long term survival of freshwater pearl mussels in Ireland. The scheme will be open to farmers across eight priority catchments in counties Cork, Kerry, Galway, Mayo, and Donegal.

Freshwater pearl mussels are a large species of mussel that occur in very clean streams, rivers, and occasionally lakes. They are Ireland’s longest-living animal with lifespans of over 120 years being recorded. Despite large numbers remaining in some rivers, they have declined dramatically in the last century and are currently on the verge of extinction due to the fact that no young mussels are surviving to adulthood in many rivers. The eight priority rivers in the scheme are known to support the largest remaining populations of the legally protected mussel in Ireland.

The Pearl Mussel Project will work closely with local farmers in each area providing them with an opportunity to be recognized and financially rewarded for delivering environmental benefits. Dr Patrick Crushell, Project Manager, stated “We aim to develop a scheme that is attractive to farmers by rewarding them for improving the local environment. Enhancing farmland habitats within the catchments will have a positive influence on the river and in turn the endangered freshwater pearl mussel, which is a key species that indicates a very clean and healthy environment of great benefit to wider society. It is right that farmers should be adequately rewarded for providing this important and valuable product”.

The scheme is currently being designed by the project team with input from farmers, advisors, and researchers. Consultation meetings with farmers in each local area will be held later in the year to inform them of the project and to gain an understanding of their views, concerns, and hopes for the scheme.

Further information is available on the recently launched project website (PearlMusselProject.ie) where maps can be viewed to check eligibility and there is also a facility to register interest. The Pearl Mussel Project is an EIP (European Innovation Partnership) locally led scheme funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine as part of Ireland's Rural Development Programme 2014-20.

ENDS

Relevant maps and photos available on request.

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